William Laud

Daily Reading for January 10 • William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645

The ‘unity,’ then, ‘of the Spirit,’ to which the apostle exhorts, includes both; both concord in mind and affections, and love of charitable unity, which comes from the Spirit of God, and returns to it. And, indeed, the grace of God’s Spirit is that alone which makes men truly at peace and unity one with another. To Him it is to be attributed, not to us, saith Saint Augustine. It is ‘He that makes men to be of one mind in an house.’ Now one mind in the Church, and one mind in the State, come from the same fountain with ‘one mind in an house;’ all from ‘the Spirit.’ And so the Apostle clearly, ‘one body, and one Spirit,’ that is, ‘one body,’ by ‘one Spirit.’ For it is ‘the Spirit’ that joins all the members of the Church into ‘one body.’ And it is the Church that blesses the State, not simply with ‘unity,’ but with that unity with which itself is blessed of God. A State not Christian may have ‘unity’ in it. Yes; and so may a State that hath lost all Christianity, save the name. But ‘unity of the Spirit’ nor Church nor State can longer hold, than they do in some measure obey the ‘Spirit,’ and love the ‘unity.’

This ‘unity of the Spirit’ is closer than any corporal union can be; for spirits meet where bodies cannot, and nearer than bodies can. The reason is given by Saint Chrysostom: because the soul or spirit of man is more simple, and of one form. And the soul apter in itself to union is made more apt by the Spirit of God which is ‘one,’ and loves nothing but as it tends to one. Nay, as the Spirit of God is one, and cannot dissent from itself, no more ought they whom the Spirit hath joined in one; and the Spirit hath joined the Church in one; therefore he that divides the unity of the Church, practices against the ‘unity of the Spirit.’

And now I cannot but wonder what words Saint Paul, were he now alive, would use, to call back ‘unity’ into dismembered Christendom. For my part, death were easier to me, than it is to see and consider the face of the Church of Christ scratched and torn, till it bleeds in every part, as it doth this day.

From Sermons Before King Charles’s Third Parliament by William Laud, quoted in Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness, compiled by Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams (Oxford, 2001).

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